correct • elegant • free

Comments on this blog

So I've been thinking about how (and whether) to support comments on this blog.

I've been involved with a few WordPress and Drupal sites, and as soon as you allow comments, you start getting flooded with spam. Some of it is quite inventive, and unless you have your wits about you will be passed as genuine comments. Others make no sense to me: why post meaningless spam with a link to Yahoo? (Perhaps the spammers are just testing the water.)

I'm not going to use CAPTCHAs: they're not reliable, and they introduce accessibility problems. Furthermore, I believe in Strong AI, so ultimately any CAPTCHA will be defeatable.

The Akismet plugin for WordPress does a very good job of identifying spam, but it is guiltware, and still leaves the adminstrator with the job of reviewing its work. There must be a better way.

Fundamentally, why does spam exist? Because you are making the spammer an irresistible offer: the opportunity to host their content on your site. So there's the null solution: don't allow any third-party content at all. That works, of course, but it's a pity to remove all possibility of dialogue.

So here's what I'm thinking. If you'd like to make a comment on any page on this site, email it to me - there's a mailto link on every page, which now includes the page context.

If your comment is of a reasonable quality - that is, relevant and coherent - I will post it, and also give you a login so that you can post further comments directly. Naturally the login will be rescinded if it is abused, and since this is my site I get to decide what constitutes abuse. I'll also ensure that comments are stored in some reasonably sane way, so that they are permanently attached to the articles they comment on, and don't disappear merely because I lose the database or change the way the site is implemented (apologies to the 2 or 3 people who made real comments on this site when it lived in Drupal).

I haven't actually implemented any of this yet, so the first person to email me a comment will also be doing me the favour of giving me a new (Yesod!) mini-project, and will doubtless be acknowledged in a future post, as well as seeing their comment online (eventually).

Comments (by email) welcome...